Apple Backtracks over Mounting Privacy Concerns

Increasing pressure from regulators has forced Apple to re-think their privacy options concerning user’s personal contacts. Until now, many apps running on the iOS platform were free to download a user’s personal contact information like phone numbers and e-mail addresses without proper consent. The matter came into light after recent revelations of Social Network “Path” downloading user’s address books and keeping them on their servers without permission. The company quickly cleaned up its act by deleting the data and modified the policy.

The exercise has come to a stage, where it’s become a common practice in the industry. Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram are some of the usual suspects when it comes to collecting such data without consent.

Congressmen Henry Waxman and GK Butterfield have come down hard on Apple and have asked them to tweak the current functionality. They have also raised questions as to why Apple has not taken the privacy of the address data as seriously as its user’s location data. In 2011, the revelation that Apple had an in-built database that could track user location created quite a stir. Apple immediately obliged and made sure such data was removed. Much in the same vein, Apple has said that any application currently collecting user data without permission was in breach of its guidelines. In the next upgrade, it has promised to make sure that users will be asked permission before any data is downloaded.

“We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release,” said Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr

In related news, Twitter owned up to the fact that the find friends option on its iPhone app automatically downloaded contact details to its servers, where it was being kept for a period of 18 months. The alert right now titled “scan your contacts” is to be changed to “upload your contacts” to be more clear. In recent times, Facebook has also been in the public eye over its various privacy options, it was even revealed that the social network could scan all the web pages browsed by the user long after signing out of Facebook.


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